[Guest post by Melissa Funaro]
MLA 2015, New Member and First-Time Attendee Program & Breakfast, Sunday May 17th, 7-9am
MLA 2015 “Librarians Without Limits” was my first time attending a Medical Library Association (MLA) Conference. I could not have attended the conference without the Professional Development Award from NN/LM of the New England Region. Leaving the conference I felt proud to be a medical librarian. To be part of a group that encourages the sharing of information. We couldn’t have gotten to where we are today without that commitment.
I was particularly touched by Lucretia McClure’s “Pearls of Wisdom” at the New Member and First-Time Attendee Program and Breakfast early Sunday Morning. A large group of attendees stood up to torrential rains to make it that day. We were all soaked with rain but so excited to be there. My mentor Brenda Linares from UNC Chapel Hill was already there and saved me a seat.
Lucretia McClure spoke about her experience working in a library in the 1960’s, prior to automation, when each job in the library was carried out by people and not machines. Reference used print indexes and search terms had to be looked up in the Index Medicus. If Index Medicus didn’t have the subject heading you wanted, you would have to read the entire article to determine if your search term was mentioned. Librarians were paid to read and it was a way to learn about medicine.
Than machines came along and changed everything. When Index Medicine went online to create MEDLARS, the first large-scale computer system for storing and retrieving scientific information, no one could have foreseen the progression that would lead us to today. With the MEDLARS system, libraries could write to the National Library of Medicine (NLM) with a topic and the NLM would create a bibliography. The only downside was the turnaround time of six weeks.
The Medical Library Assistance Act (MLAA) of 1965 was the first step in providing support to libraries, providing money for buildings, renovations, and collections. It also helped decentralize MEDLARS to authorize funding to establish regional medical libraries where each library became a MEDLARS center. NLM duplicated the MEDLARS tapes and each school could retrieve citation information locally (Dee, 2007).
Than in October of 1968 the real revolution took place when Index Medicus went online to become MEDLINE, making it the first interactive biomedical communication database. Now library patrons could search for information on their own.
Today we have the ability to search giant Databases from anywhere and on a multitude of devices. Now we need to convince students that Google it is not always their best choice to get information.
Her speech made me realize how much the library changed in such a short period of time. What is the mission of medical libraries for the next 50 years? What task can help ignite our imagination and push us to accomplish something great? When we look back in just 10 years, where will the journey have led us? Where will medical libraries be in 2025?
McClure urges us to get involved. As biology and genetics are changing and expanding in all areas she states the importance of being a part of that change if we want to be relevant in 2025.
McClure wants us all to become curious about the future. To consider what the library can become and what we can become as people. Machines are wonderful but they don’t think or interact with people.
She reminds us that MLA can be a partner in our journey. Collectively we can see things coming and the trends that will answer the question: “what is the future of the medical library”? Despite the answer we need colleagues who can help us think about the future and will not hesitate to answer a call for help. MLA is important because it cares about fighting for our place to make sure librarians keep going. As individuals we don’t have much power but together through MLA we have the power of an organization to keep the profession strong. People do count.
I am proud to be a librarian because as professionals we are intent on sharing our great ideas with each other. Our mission remains constant to share information in order to move society forward. I will always remember my first MLA conference and how everyone lives up to McClure’s message.
References: Dee, C. R. The development of the Medical Literature Analysis and Retrieval System (MEDLARS). Journal of the Medical Library Association : JMLA, 2007; 95(4), 416–425. http://dx.doi.org/10.3163/1536-5050.95.4.416
By Melissa Funaro
Cushing Whitney Medical Library, Yale